Trainer Jarrod Austin and his father Brian have had plenty of fun with their grand country performer Hirokin over the years and they could be set for further celebrations at Taree on today when the seven-year-old steps out in the $35,000 Wingham Cup (1600m).
Owned by Brian and trained by Jarrod at his Warwick Farm stables, Hirokin is chasing his 10th career win at the Taree Showcase meeting.
A son of Dubawi, Hirokin has compiled a record of nine wins and 16 placings from his 54 starts for prizemoney of $198,770. The gelding has won at eight different tracks throughout NSW, including wins in last year's $40,000 Gooree Cup (1600m) at Mudgee and this year's $50,000 Bathurst Cup (1800m).
"He's been a great horse for Dad and I," said the trainer. "We bought him for $25,000 as a yearling at the Inglis Classic sale and he's now close to winning $200,000 in prizemoney. It's great to have a horse that you can take around to the country cups and be competitive with and Dad and I have certainly had a lot of fun with him."
And Hirokin shows no signs of slowing down just yet.
His recent runs have been some of the best of his career. Four starts back he landed the $50,000 Bathurst Cup (1800m) on February 11 and has finished second at his past two starts - behind American Time in the $30,000 Gundagai Cup (1800m) on April 8 and then runner-up to Penske when chasing a second win in the Gooree Cup (1600m) at Mudgee on May 19.
"He's racing as well as ever even though he's rising eight," said Austin. "He's jumping around and squealing like he's a two-year-old about to turn three. He loves his racing and being in the stables - he's a very happy horse.
"His last two runs have been terrific - he's just bumped into one a bit too good on the day.
"Hopefully, he can go one better at Taree on Friday. The 1600m is his pet trip, he's drawn perfectly (barrier three) and he'll probably lead, though he can take a sit if that's how things pan out. The 1600m at Taree looks ideal for him and he should race very well again."
Hirokin certainly excels at the 1600m, with seven of his nine wins coming over that trip. And his only previous start at Taree was a good second to Hippy High Ho in the Hannamvale Cup (1614m) on December 17 last year.
Austin rates Invicta, Choice Larga and Star Fest as the toughest to beat.
"Invicta, on his best form, looks a big threat in a race like this and I think he's the one to beat," said Austin.
Trained at Gosford by Ken Parker, Invicta tackles the Taree race second-up after resuming with a 10th - beaten only 2.9 lengths - behind Schubert in a Benchmark 78 over 1300m at Warwick Farm on May 9. The four-year-old is a winner at Taree and has won twice at the 1600m.
Wyong trainer Damien Lane is chasing back-to-back wins in the Wingham Cup with the in-form Choice Larga. Lane won the race last year with Mr McBat, who powered home from near last to swamp Our Sarastro and Who Is Game. Trained locally by Michael Byers, Who Is Game won the Wingham Cup in 2016 and lines up for another crack on Friday.
Choice Larga is coming off a Benchmark 68 win over 1300m Kembla Grange on April 21 and a last-start second at the same track behind Fireman Sam I Am in a Benchmark 65 over 1400m on May 12.
Champion jockey Corey Brown will ride at the Taree meeting and has a chance to land the race named in his honour.
Brown, who grew up in Wingham, will partner the David Pfieffer-trained Explosive Missile in the inaugural $30,000 Corey Brown Cup, a Benchmark 65 over 1300m.
Brown's other rides on the eight-race card are first-starter Shuswaggi (race two) for Kris Lees, Ibini (race three) for Ben Smith and the Ross Stitt-trained Miss Zodiac (race five).